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Exclusive Interview with Muriel Smith, Executive Director, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank

Muriel Smith Featured Pic

We thank Muriel Smith, Executive Director, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank for this interview opportunity. She discussed St. Louis Alliance for Period Supplies (STLAPS) while interacting with Rochelle Brandvein, President, Brandvein Aaranson Public Relations, and Neel Achary, Editor, Business News This Week.

Muriel smith

Q. Please let our readers know about the goal of STLAPS.

The St. Louis Alliance for Period Supplies (STLAPS) is a St. Louis Area Diaper Bank program that collaborates with the Alliance for Period Supplies to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products.

St. Louis Area Diaper Bank’s mission is to build healthy communities by ending diaper need and period poverty through access, education, and advocacy.  Our period supply program’s goal: provide individuals in need with access to products, as well as help raise awareness around the causes and consequences of period poverty.

Q. Founders of STL APS and how they started the awareness.

Our period supply program was born out of a need we saw in the community when women, girls, and menstruating individuals in underserved communities did not have access to the monthly supplies they needed to manage their periods.

A 2021 study conducted by U by Kotex® revealed that two in five people have struggled to purchase period products, a 35% increase from the brand’s initial research in 2018. Earlier data inspired U by Kotex® to become the founding sponsor of the Alliance for Period Supplies in 2018 to help people affected by period poverty. The study also uncovered how period poverty is disproportionately impacting Black and Latina people, as well as how COVID-19 exasperated this public health issue. Key findings include:

  • A quarter of Black (23%) and Latina (24%) people with periods strongly agree they have struggled to afford period products in the past year.
  • 27% of all respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to access period products, with two-thirds (65%) of those who have struggled stating they lacked access because they could not afford them.
  • Over one-third (38%) of low-income women report missing work, school, or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies.

In 2019, Dr. Anne Sebert Kuhlmann, Ph.D., MPH from Saint Louis University conducted a study of St. Louis menstruating women and girls. Kuhlmann’s study found that nearly two-thirds of the women her team surveyed and interviewed were unable to afford menstrual hygiene supplies like pads or tampons at some point during the previous year, and 21% of women lacked supplies on a monthly basis. Nearly half – 46 percent – of those surveyed could not afford to buy both food and period-related products during the past year.

Muriel Smith in the warehouse

Q. How do you spread awareness among women in the U.S.?

We are part of the Alliance for Period Supplies, which is a program of the National Diaper Bank Network. The Alliance is a national organization comprised of more than 120 U.S. Allied Programs like our independently operated nonprofit. Each of us serves as a trusted community resource and advocate for individuals, children, and families who struggle to afford basic material needs.

Q. What are the functions of the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank?

St. Louis Area Diaper Bank strives to make a health, social and economic impact by not only providing diapers and period supplies to individuals but also by connecting them to these resources and more through our partner agencies. Providing those in need with free diapers influences a range of positive outcomes for these families, such as positive changes in parental mood (reducing the risk of childhood abuse); improved child health and happiness (nurturing their ability to learn); and increased opportunities for childcare, work stability, and school attendance.

Q.What are the ways to become a volunteer?

Anyone interested in becoming involved with our St. Louis organization can contact Jerrica Franks, our Community Engagement and Outreach Manager, at jfranks@stldiaperbank.org or (314) 624-0888.

Q.What are the major campaigns initiated to raise awareness on “period poverty”?

The national organization, The Alliance for Period Supplies, created “Period Poverty Awareness Week” held in May to draw attention to the issue of period poverty and the negative impact it has on people who menstruate.

Q.Any major achievement and success achieved so far?

Our period supply program – which has distributed nearly 750,000 period products throughout the St. Louis region since its inception in 2020 – has served 28,000 individuals to date.  We have also expanded our partnership distribution programs with the St. Louis County Library and St. Louis Public Library where the community can pick up period kits on a monthly basis.

Q.Your message to the society and appeal to join the campaign on raising awareness?

We encourage everyone to join the movement and become advocates to help end period poverty. Start a conversation about period poverty, host a virtual product drive, donate to the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank. All of these initiatives can be accomplished right from your home.

About STLAPS

The St. Louis Alliance for Period Supplies (STLAPS) is a Diaper Bank program that collaborates with the Alliance for Period Supplies to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products.  The STL APS program distributes period supplies through community partners, as well as advocates for the elimination of “period poverty”.  To date more than 450,000 period supplies have been distributed in St. Louis, with 10,800 period supplies allocated each week.  Last year two-thirds of low-income women in St. Louis could not afford menstrual hygiene products, with 46% of low-income women having to choose between food and period supplies.

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